Watermelon Basil Sorbet

Watermelon Basil Sorbet
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watermelon basil sorbet
Cool color. Cool flavor. Cool.

Remember that watermelon in the photo last Wednesday? We surely do, because we had to eat it. While we love watermelon, it was too much for just two people, so we looked for ways to extend its “shelf life.” The first thing we came up with was watermelon sorbet; then we figured we’d go all exotic on you and add a bit of basil. Oooh. Exotic.

All right, adding basil really isn’t all that exotic, but watermelon and basil do make a good combination, and we had a bit of fresh basil to use, too. Now, this recipe we pretty much made up, using our top-secret rule for making fruit sorbet: add 1/4 cup of sugar for every cup of fruit purée. Okay, not all that secret, either.

Watermelon Basil Sorbet

Yield: about 1 1/2 quarts

Watermelon Basil Sorbet


  • 2-3 inch-thick slices watermelon, seeded and cubed
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon (see note)
  • 10-15 fresh basil leaves (see note)
  • 3/4 - 1 1/2 cups sugar (see note)
  • 1/4 -1/2 tsp kosher salt (see note)

Abbreviated Instructions

Place watermelon in blender along with lemon juice. Blend on low to make a slurry, but don't blend any remaining seeds.

Strain as best you can, picking out any remaining seeds. Return to blender.

Add basil and blend smooth.

Add sugar and salt and blend smooth.

Strain into a large bowl. Cover and chill mixture overnight.

Set up an ice cream freezer and churn mixture according to the manufacturer's directions.

Transfer to an airtight container and freeze.


For every cup of watermelon purée, use 1/2 tsp lemon juice, 1/4 cup sugar, 2-3 basil leaves, 1/8 tsp kosher salt.


Ingredient discussion:

Sure, your watermelon is sweet, so why the added sugar? Simple: it lowers the freezing point of the sorbet, so it’s scoopable and smooth right from the freezer. Leave it out and you’ll have a watermelon ice cube. Good perhaps, but not sorbet. You can use basil if you want, or mint would work, too. If you do use mint, we’d suggest that you reduce the amount by about half. The lemon juice is there not for taste, but to help hold the color. You don’t want your watermelon sorbet to be brown, do you?

Procedure in detail:

cubed watermelon
Three thick slices were enough to fill our blender.

Cube and seed. We think the easiest way to cube watermelon is this: cut off a slice of melon, then cut that slice into quarters. Now, take each quarter in your hand and slice parallel to one side down to the rind, so you have long rectangles still attached to the rind. Turn the quarter slice and repeat, slicing perpendicular to the first slices and into cubes. Pick through and remove the seeds. This is the difficult part. As you work, place the cubes into a blender.

Add lemon juice and blend. Squeeze in the lemon juice and turn the blender on low to start chopping the cubes. You don’t want to blend on high because you probably still have a few seeds that escaped detection. We did. Just blend long enough to make a slurry of watermelon.

removing watermelon seeds
We figured we’d miss a few seeds, so we checked after blending on low to make a watermelon slurry.

Check for seeds. We don’t know a good way to do this, so we poured our watermelon slurry into a small strainer and shook through what watermelon we could, then fished out the seeds with our (clean) fingers. We were glad we did; even being careful while removing seeds earlier, we still found 10 seeds that escaped our notice. Pour the seedless mixture back into the blender.

adding basil leaves
We think about 2-3 basil leaves per cup of purée.

Add basil. Note how much slush you have and add 2-3 basil leaves for each cup. Just toss them right on top; they’ll get blended in later.

Blend smooth. Start blending on high and continue until the basil leaves are completely blended into the mixture. This will also ensure that the watermelon is blended nice and smooth, too.

adding sugar
It might not look as if we’re measuring, but we are; everything is on a scale and we’re watching the amount of sugar we add.

Add sugar and salt. Pour in the sugar, remembering to use 1/4 cup (50g) of sugar per cup of purée. Add the salt, too.

Blend. Once again, blend the mixture on high for about a minute. You’re really trying for a smooth mixture. It might froth a bit as you work, but that’s from the pulp in the watermelon.

straining watermelon sorbet mix
After blending on high, the mixture should pass right through a strainer.

Strain. Once blended, strain into a large bowl, or, if you have one, a large measuring cup with a spout. It’ll be easier to pour into your ice cream maker later.

Chill. Cover with plastic and place in the coldest spot in your refrigerator. Since watermelon is mainly water, it’ll be harder to freeze while it churns, so making it as cold as possible before churning is essential. Let the mixture chill overnight.

churning sorbet
We use an attachment for our KitchenAid mixer to freeze sorbet and ice cream.

Churn. Set up your ice cream maker and churn the watermelon mixture according to the manufacturer’s directions. For ours, it took about 10 minutes of churning, but, even then, it didn’t get very solid.

Pack and freeze. Quickly scoop the mixture into an airtight container and get it into the freezer. If you have liquid-y portions, let the sorbet freeze for an hour or two, then give it a good stir, trying to break up any icy pieces.

Nice flavor and a smooth texture. The amount of basil is about perfect: you can taste it, but it doesn’t overwhelm the mild watermelon flavor. This is a very refreshing sorbet. We will say that it’s a bit troublesome to make sure that there are no seeds left in the mix before blending, but it’s not so bad that you can’t do it. Four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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